"Painter of reality," Linard was one of the most important still-life painters in seventeenth-century France. His works balance fascinating detail with poetic compositions of a simplicity that distinguishes French still-life painting of the period from the lusher, more sophisticated works by Flemish and Dutch painters. This canvas is a different version of one of the artist’s paintings that feature shells. Part of the appeal of exotic and very expensive shells had to do with their status as mirabilia – rare objects pursued by amateurs for their collections of natural wonders. Still lifes also delighted owners for their implied moral and intellectual themes. Coral, for example, was believed to ward off the “evil eye” and, because its form recalled blood vessels, it had long been associated with Christ’s Blood of Redemption. The allusion to Christ’s protection against the evils of the world gave coral a spiritual significance, while shells with pearly interiors suggested luxury and sensuality.